Genocide on Fleet Street : the Armenian genocide in the British press, 1915-1918.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameBachelor of Arts (Hons)
This paper examines British attitudes towards the Armenian genocide through the three most prominent contemporary newspapers: the Times, the Manchester Guardian and the Daily Mail. In particular, it considers the nature and extent of these papers’ interest in the events and, as far as can be discerned, that of their readers. Despite substantial scholarly interest in atrocity narratives in First World War Britain, British reception of the Armenian genocide, by far the war’s worst atrocity, has attracted little attention. Historians in this area, who concern themselves overwhelmingly with atrocities committed by the German military, have given the subject only passing mention. Conversely, recent inquiries by scholars of humanitarianism have focused almost exclusively on reception amongst Britain’s pro-Armenian humanitarian advocates, giving only supplementary consideration to the press. This paper adopts a comparative approach, contrasting the presentation of the genocide in the ‘elite press’ (the Times and the Guardian) with that of the most prominent and widely-circulated ‘popular’ newspaper, the Mail, in order to consider differing attitudes amongst upper- and middle-class observers respectively. While the elite press provided significant coverage of the events, demonstrating a humanitarian concern for the Armenian victims, the Mail gave the genocide only passing attention, despite its potential propaganda value and having access to a substantial volume of graphic eye-witness accounts. Two conclusions are drawn from this disparity. First, it is suggested that the Mail’s inattention resulted from a lack of interest by their readers, indicating that the Armenian cause was a predominantly elite phenomenon. Second, it is argued that the Mail exercised a deliberate editorial decision not to reproduce much of the details published by the elite press, demonstrating that the Mail’s long-standing scholarly reputation as a government propaganda outlet ‘duping’ the public into the war through graphic atrocity stories is unfounded.